KOTA KINABALU: The water supply situation along Sabah’s west coast is at a precarious stage with the existing Babagon dam being barely able to meet existing demand, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said.
He said there was no other choice but for the state to build a second water supply dam at the Crocker Range near Kampung Kaiduan in Papar district near here.
Pairin, the state Infrastructure Development Minister, said 21,000 million litres of water held at the Babagon dam in Penampang was just enough to supply the three million consumers in the current prolonged dry spell in Sabah.
“In a few years this amount of water will no longer be sufficient. That is why building the dam at Kaiduan is a matter of urgency,” he said in launching the state level Water Day conference here on Monday.
He said the government wanted construction of the Kaiduan dam to begin as soon as possible as the project costing an estimated RM2.8bil would take at least three years to complete.
Construction of the dam had been opposed by local villagers in the area and a number of environmental and concerned groups as the structure would result in the flooding of 12sq km including schools, churches, graves apart from farmland.
Noting that there were similar vociferous objections when the state wanted to build the Babagon dam in the 1990’s, Pairin who was chief minister between 1985 and 1994, said that he was thankful the Sabah government proceeded with the project.
“If there was no Babagon dam the whole west coast of Sabah would now be a in dire situation. The taps would be running dry,” he said, adding that the construction of the dam would affect 110 families.
He said the situation would have been worse during the El-Nino induced drought in 1998 in adding that “without the Babagon dam, it would been catastrophe for Sabah.”
Noting the current climate of extreme weather patterns in Sabah with the state experiencing severe floods in late 2014 and early this year followed by prolonged drought, he said the dams would provide the capacity to store up water.
On the fate of the Kaiduan villagers, he said the government wanted to ensure better livelihood for them in the area where they would be resettled.
“We are organising a dialogue soon to explain to them and the various concerned groups about our plans to help these affected by the dam,” said Pairin.
Earlier, Pairin read out the speech of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman who said that water supply demand had increased from 863 million litres per day in 2005 to 994 million litres per day in 2010 for the state’s 3.12mil population.
In tandem with this, there has been an increase in demand for electricity supply, Musa said.
“With an upward trend in the demand for water, it is becoming increasingly challenging to source and manage water resources, more so against the backdrop of climate change and uncertainty in weather patterns,” he added.
“Due to these variables, all stakeholders need to come together and devise plans and approaches to face how we will manage and use water as we move ahead,” he said.